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TURKS AND CAICOS STILL LOOKING TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE, SAYS PREMIER RUFUS EWING

TURKS AND CAICOS STILL LOOKING TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE, SAYS PREMIER RUFUS EWING
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Turks and Caicos Islands is still considering political independence from Britain, Premier Dr. Rufus Ewing has said.

Ewing told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that “independence remains a major issue” three years after Britain suspended the island’s constitution and set up a one-man commission to probe the government of then premier Michael Misick.

“I think any right thinking country should have independence as its destination. The time period however is the question. The need for independence must be the goal and so everything you do should be to prepare your people and country for that giant step. There will be a number of factors that will come into play as to whether or not that time should be fast tracked or continue along the pace that you would desire to have or would like to have and that would depend on the ongoing relationship with the United Kingdom government and the people in the territory,” he said.

Ewing said that the government “of the day” would also have a role to play and “allowed to do what is right by the people, for the people to improve their standard of living and to prepare us for our plans for moving towards that step of independence.

“If it doesn’t happen, all it does is to make the people even more convinced that independence is our only way out,” said Ewing, who is here attending the 14th annual Caribbean Tourism Organisation organised Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC-14).

He told CMC that over the past three years, more citizens have become convinced “that independence is the way to go, more than ever before in the past because of the relationship we have had (with Britain) over the past three years.

Ewing, who studied in Barbados and Jamaica and is well known throughout the Eastern Caribbean, said while he would not commit personally to a timeframe” for independence, “what I know we will do is to appoint an independence commission from the House of Assembly to look at timeframes to look at milestones that need to be achieved and to look at referendum settings…”.

Ewing, whose government holds a slender one seat majority in Parliament, said there is stability in the country.

“The stability is just about there. We have elected a government that we have confidence in from a stand point of investors,” he said, aware that with a one seat majority in the House “if anything happens then we can keep on going back to by elections and by elections and so it may not give the people the level of security they would want”.

While he would not comment on the re-arrest of former premier Misick in Brazil and the extradition proceedings that had been started against him by Britain, Ewing told CMC he was still “awaiting” a response to suggestions that Britain was trying to re-colonise its territories in the Caribbean including the Cayman Islands.

“Well, I am sure everybody has a reason for doing things and I still awaiting the answer to the question,” he said, adding “I were a conspiracy theorist that would be my theory” as to whether London was using finances to the territories to “keep them in check

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BRITAIN SLAMS TURKS AND CAICOS PREMIER’S SPEECH

Britain slams Turks and Caicos premier’s CARICOM speech
Published on March 14, 2013

By Caribbean News Now contributor

LONDON, England — In a strongly worded letter on Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague described Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Premier Dr Rufus Ewing’s speech last month to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government as a substantial misrepresentation to the people of the TCI and to the leaders of the Caribbean.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague
“I have seen the speech you gave to CARICOM heads of government on 18 February about the relationship between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United Kingdom. I regret to say you substantially misrepresent both the past and the present situation to both the people of the TCI and to the leaders of the Caribbean,” Hague said.

Hague went on to remind Ewing that the previous government run by his Progressive National Party (PNP) “left behind a chaotic situation including — through incompetence, abuse of power and corruption — rapidly deteriorating public finances.”

“As a result, TCI was, in effect, bankrupt. In 2009 the UK government provided emergency funding to enable public workers to be paid. In 2010 we provided a guarantee that enabled the TCI government to borrow up to $260 million at an affordable interest rate in order to enable the government to maintain essential services while bringing public finances back under control,” he continued.

Hague said that Britain accepted broad responsibility for good governance in its Overseas Territories and referred to the 2008-2009 Commission of Inquiry in the TCI, which concluded that there was a high probability of systemic corruption among ministers, members of the legislature and public officials in the then TCI government.

The inquiry documented detailed information on corruption, dishonesty and abuse of public office by former premier Michael Misick and other ministers in the previous PNP government and recommended criminal investigation. As a result, Britain suspended parts of the TCI constitution providing for ministerial government and the House of Assembly.

Subsequent investigations have led to 12 former ministers and others being charged and the attorney general is seeking Misick’s extradition from Brazil to the TCI.

“Misick is resisting return to TCI and seeking political asylum,” Hague said.

He also pointed out that a prominent international law firm was appointed to recover misappropriated assets and has so far recovered $16.6 million, with a further $2.6 million ordered to be paid, as well as nearly 2,500 acres of Crown land recovered; all to benefit the people of the TCI.

The British Interim Administration implemented a broad programme of reform to deal with this situation and to help prevent it being repeated. It established a robust framework for good government and sound public financial management and integrity and accountability in public life.

“These steps should help minimise the chances of a few corrupt people exploiting the assets of TCI for their own benefit, instead of these assets being available for the good of all the community. We will allow neither this framework to be rolled back nor the delivery of good and honest government to be undermined,” Hague said.

He also referred to an earlier open letter by Ewing that raised the issue of value added tax (VAT).

Hague reminded Ewing that the British government in 2010 was presented with a situation in which the TCI had an annual deficit of £30 million, which was set to grow significantly.

“This unsustainable situation led to the UK Department for International Development appointing a chief financial officer whose responsibilities were to ensure that this deficit was reduced and that TCI’s finances returned to surplus,” he said.

Eight milestones were then set, before which elections would not be permitted.

“Despite the financial milestone not yet having been met, the UK government agreed in good faith to permit elections in the expectation that an incoming government would administer the island’s finances so as to build an increasing surplus and release the
UK government from its government guarantee,” Hague said.

According to Hague, introducing VAT was central to this and seen to be in the interests of the TCI and the UK. That said, UK ministers have consistently made clear that a decision to introduce VAT is one for the TCI government, and that credible alternative measures would be considered

“The TCI government is responsible for delivering sustainable public finances. As you know this means that you and your government have to meet the public finance framework, which includes debt reduction targets and should enable you to refinance your debts without a UK guarantee after 2016. UK ministers have recently accepted your proposal not to introduce VAT on 1 April but instead to set public spending at a lower level commensurate with the absence of VAT, the uncertainty about alternative revenue streams, and the weakening outlook for some existing revenue streams. We are now awaiting your specific proposals on what additional expenditure cuts and alternative revenue measures you will put in place to ensure your adherence to the public finance framework,” he reminded Ewing.

Haig said that the UK government set out a clear vision in its Overseas Territories White Paper last year.

“We want the Overseas Territories, including the Turks and Caicos Islands, to flourish in partnership with the United Kingdom. We want you to build a strong and sustainable local economy and to develop as a community. Our relationship with you entails responsibilities for both parties. We have a broad responsibility to support the Territories and to ensure security and good governance. We expect the Territories to meet the same high standards of good governance and public financial management as in the UK,” he said.

According to Hague, Britain accepts a broad responsibility for joint security and continues to provide a range of support and training for public servants, such as police, prison and immigration services.

“We expect the elected government of TCI and other territories that wish to remain British to abide by the same high standards as the UK government in maintaining the rule of law, respect for human rights and integrity in public life, delivering efficient public services, upholding the judiciary and building strong and successful communities,” he said.

Hague also referred to the issue of independence that Ewing had raised and confirmed that this is an option for the TCI.

“If the people of TCI express a wish for independence through a clear and proper process, the UK government will meet its obligations to help the territory to achieve it,” he said.

Hague concluded by reiterating his belief both in democracy and that government must be honest and transparent and behave responsibly.

“The TCI government has the chance to shape the future of your islands. The UK government has invested much in helping put TCI back on the right path. TCI has a growing economy, modernised legislation and a committed public service. I hope you will use this inheritance wisely,” he said.

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Independence Is Up To The People of Turks and Caicos

Mr Henry Bellingham
INDEPENDENCE for the Turks and Caicos Islands is up to the people, according to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Mr Henry Bellingham.

There has been much talk about an independent TCI by local politicians and Progressive National Party (PNP) leader, Dr Rufus Ewing, last week confirmed that independence will be a part of his platform going forward.

An independent TCI is appealing for many TC Islanders who are disgruntled with the Brits after three years of interim administration rule.

Bellingham, in an interview with the Weekly News, acknowledged the people’s sense of dissatisfaction, but noted that the decisions made by the interim administration were in the interests of a better TCI in the long-term.

“We have had to make some tough decision so I can understand the interim administration was somewhat unpopular,” he said.

The Under Secretary noted that these decisions are what will allow the new TCI Government to take over a very strong position, with a reformed public service, a budget surplus and a new constitution.

ESTABLISHED ROUTE
He said the new constitution sets out clearly what needs to be done if the TCI people decide they want to be an independent nation.

“There is a well-established framework in the constitution for the TCI people to have self-determination,” Bellingham said.

However, he stressed the need for decision makers to be realistic.

He said, “It will have to be a transition to have home rule, we have elections coming up and that is one step toward what is looking to be a bright future for the TCI.”

The Under Secretary added that the United Kingdom government in their White Paper, which will be published shortly, shows commitment to its territories.

Bellingham said, “We will invest in our territories to make our partnership a true reality.

“We want to give the territories a bankable proposition, for example, so that when they go into the capital markets they have all the support, partnership and protection they need.

“We believe that the Overseas Territories benefit a great deal from the UK, it is a mutually beneficial partnership.

“But we also make it clear in the White Paper that the future of the people is in their own hands and so we believe in self-determination, we are not neutral on this.”

According to him, once there is a majority vote in Parliament, a referendum will follow and independence will be granted to the TCI because it is the wish of the people.

He said, “It is very simple, the people of the TCI, if they want independence it is up to them, self-determination means exactly that.”

CHECKS AND BALANCE
Until then, Bellingham maintained that there will be some checks and balances in place to support good governance and accountability, for example with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) ordinance.

Having a CFO appointed by the UK was one of the conditions set by the UK government in the provision of the $260m loan guarantee, which was agreed on in 2010.

Without the guarantee, it would not have been possible for TCIG to access the funding it needed to function and to provide public services.

The agreement allows for the CFO to be retained for as long as any UK loan guarantee is in force – currently up to 2016.

The Under Secretary said once the loan is repaid and the guarantee is no longer needed a UK appointed CFO will no longer be a condition, a fact corroborated by the current CFO, Mr Hugh McGarel-Groves.

Bellingham said, “Working together we can achieve a great deal…the future is very bright for the TCI.”

Asked if the UK wanted to retain control of not only the TCI, but also the five other British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, he reiterated that the UK supports self-determination.

Along with the TCI, the other Overseas Territories include Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Montserrat.

Bellingham stressed that the future of the people is in their own hands.

NOT READY
Retired politician and former PNP Leader, Mr Daniel Malcolm, maintained that this is a future that the TCI is not ready for.

“Self-determination is where the government and the people of TCI, and other territories like us, make advances toward greater political, social and cultural determination or say within the framework of their own situation,” he said.

Malcolm contended that the Turks and Caicos Islands is much too young for independence, but noted that achieving a measure of self-determination is a move in the right direction.

He said, “We are at least 10 years away from being ready for independence…we must develop our country and our people so that when we move to independence we will do so from a position of strength.”

According to him, the ultimate goal of decolonisation is independence, but there are other options that can be looked at on that road, such route taken by Bermuda.

Bermuda is a self-governing British overseas territory in the western North Atlantic Ocean.

The original system of government was created under the Virginia Company, which colonised Bermuda, accidentally in 1609, and deliberately from 1612.

The country’s 1968 Constitution provided the island with formal responsibility for internal self-government, while the British Government retained responsibility for external affairs, defence, and security.

The Bermudian Government is always consulted on any international negotiations affecting the territory.

Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament.

Currently, most of the Overseas Territories have a House of Assembly, Legislative Assembly (Cayman Islands), or Legislative Council (Montserrat) with political parties.

The Executive Council is usually called a cabinet and is led by a Premier or a Chief Minister (in Anguilla), who is the leader of the majority party in parliament.

The Governor exercises less power over local affairs and deals mostly with foreign affairs and economic issues, while the elected government controls most ‘domestic’ concerns.

Malcolm maintained that the road ahead will be a long one, but with the right expertise and strategic moves, the TCI will be in a position of strength when the time comes for it to take its place as a nation independent of the UK.(Vanessa Narine)

published in Turks and Caicos Weekly News

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Turks and Caicos Ready for Independence

Ewing says TCI ready for independence

NEWLY elected leader of the Progressive National Party (PNP), Dr. Rufus Ewing, contends that the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is ready for independence.

Ewing, speaking at a press briefing at the PNP Headquarters on Wednesday, noted that the party has taken a resolution to support the move towards independence.

He made it clear that the PNP is pro-independence and going forward any moves the party makes will take into consideration an independent TCI.

The PNP Leader acknowledged that there are a few things that can be improved on before the step towards independence is taken.
According to him, the people need to be educated on the pros and cons of independence.

However, he reiterated that the TCI has long been ready to assert itself independent of the United Kingdom.

Ewing stated that before any decision is taken the views of the people have be taken into consideration, adding that the new PNP will move towards an approach that seeks to increasingly involve the people of the TCI in decision-making.

When asked about a possible timeframe for the attainment of independence, the PNP Leader noted that because this is something that needs to be approached strategically, setting a timeframe would be premature, particularly considering that the return to democratic rule has not been confirmed to happen this year.

Ewing said in going forward, independence has to be planned and strategically implemented in stages to achieve the vision leaders have for the TCI.

He maintains that independence is not to be rushed.
In a prior interview in April, Ewing made it clear that independence is ultimately up to the people, adding that developmental milestones that are advanced by an elected government will indicate the country’s readiness for independence.

“My duty is to prepare the people for that day,” he said then.

10 YEARS AWAY
Former PNP Leader and retired politician Daniel Malcolm addressed the issue of independence in an interview with the Weekly News in the latter part of March.

He contends that the TCI is too young for independence, but noted that achieving a measure of self-determination is a move in the right direction.

“We are at least 10 years away from being ready for Independence…we must develop our country and our people so that when we move to Independence we will do so from a position of strength,” he said.

However, Malcolm, like Ewing, stressed that TCI must prepare for that eventuality down the road.

“Self-determination is where the government and the people of TCI, and other territories like us, make advances toward greater political, social and cultural determination or say within the framework of their own situation,” he posited.

The former PNP Leader was recently been invited to join the Special Committee of experts with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples.

This endeavour is supported by the Decolonization Unit of the Department of Political Affairs, which is part of the United Nations (UN) Secretariat, via monitoring the implementation of the Declaration, hearing statements from the non-self governing territories, organizing an annual regional seminar and making recommendations regarding the dissemination of information on the decolonization process.

Governor Ric Todd in addressing the issue of independence in the past has said unequivocally that the United Kingdom would grant independence to the TCI, if that were the choice made by the TC people. (Vanessa Narine)
published in TCI Weekly News on 12th of June 2012

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